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Science and Human Rights

Scientific freedom and responsibility have to be enabled and practised. They benefit both scientists and policymakers; they also benefit all of us. Yet, these benefits will not be achieved if the status of scientific freedom and responsibility as a human right, as well as their linkages with other human rights, are not well understood or are plainly neglected.

At present, we have a human rights knowledge-gap that needs to be closed if science is to be objective, evidence-based, free from undue interference and accessible. Closing this gap will enable scientific researchers to claim and exercise their rights relating to the conduct of science, and will enable policymakers to meet their human rights obligations and create a healthy environment for rights-driven science, which is a cornerstone for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By anchoring science in human rights, we contribute to a range of critical questions regarding: the science agenda; the protection of scientists, science-users and beneficiaries of scientific progress; and issues of access to scientific knowledge, methodologies and data.

This MOOC, offered in partnership with UNESCO, is the first dedicated educational engagement on the human rights-based approach (HRBA) to scientific freedom and responsibility, which is also accessible, at scale and cross-disciplinary in its engagement with human rights.


Course Outline

The MOOC runs over 5 weeks and is organised in 2 modules.

Module 1 explains connections and frameworks and tackles two important questions:

  • Why connect science and human rights?
  • What is a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to scientific freedom and responsibility?

Module 2 is devoted to the HRBA in practice and responds to 3 key questions:

  • What is science for human rights?
  • What is an enabling environment for scientific freedom and responsibility?
  • How can you use a HRBA to science to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Lecturers and Experts

Building on a longstanding cooperation, UNESCO and the Global Campus of Human Rights are collaborating to introduce greater clarity on the human rights-based approach to science, as well as concrete ways for putting it into practice. The MOOC offers a wealth of specialised knowledge and examples, enabling participants to benefit from rich and varied competences. It features relevant actors from a multitude of perspectives on science and human rights, including but not limited to:


Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, participants will have gained:

  • Increased awareness about the connections between human rights and scientific freedom and scientific responsibility.
  • Clearer understanding - through reference to available data – of the need to link science and human rights, including gender equality, in accelerating progress on the SDGs.
  • Robust knowledge on human rights principles, standards and practices.

Ultimately, the course is a pathway to:

  • Empower scientists, students of science, and policymakers through education on the human rights-based approach to scientific freedom and responsibility.
  • Amplify dialogue on the relationships between science, human rights, ethics and law.





How do I enrol in the course?

In order to enrol, please follow the instructions on our “How to Enrol” webpage. This will then lead you to the OpenEdX course page. Once you are there, you can start the enrolment process by clicking the "enrol" button.

Is there a selection procedure to participate in the course?

The course is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which means we do not select participants on any basis. Rather, we welcome anyone who is interested in learning more about the topic to enrol and participate for free.



I would like to know if the course is free or if some parts are to be paid

Our course is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which means all components are open and totally free for anyone.

Do I need to pay any fee to attend the course?

There are no registration or tuition fees. The certificate of participation is also free and offered to all those who successfully complete all the course requirements (see below for details on the certificate).



Is the course accessible to persons with disabilities?

We want all participants in our courses to enjoy a great learning experience and we strive to always improve accessibility. Each week of the course includes one or two video lectures with accompanying transcripts and reading materials. The texts are in PDF format, work at low bandwidths, are printable and can be zoomed to the desired size. Some readings may include pages from accessible websites. This makes all of them accessible to those who use assistive technology software such as screen readers. Likewise, weekly discussions and module quizzes can be completed through our platform which is accessible, for example, to people who use speech input, keyboard accessible controls or text to speech tools. For more details please visit EdX Website Accessibility Policy.


Structure and content

Is there a schedule for the course or is it self-directed?

The course is self-paced and mostly asynchronous so participants can study in their own time. However, to enhance peer learning, interactive participation and self-assessment, weekly topics and discussions as well as module quizzes are proposed at set dates. In any case, they are all open until the end of the course to facilitate access and completion at any preferred time. For a detailed description of the schedule check the course outline page on our website.


Certificate of participation

What do I need to do to get the certificate of participation?

At the end of the course, if you have actively participated in all required weekly discussions and successfully completed all quizzes, you will receive a certificate confirming your participation.


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